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I have been writing a series on Georgia car wrecks that cause injury or death, based on a 2008 report from the Georgia Department of Transportation (“DOT”), Crash Analysis, Statistics and Information.

Do you ever think the whole state is a little myopic about Atlanta? Certainly there is plenty of state out there besides Atlanta, as I well know because I handle personal injury law cases throughout Georgia.

The DOT report had plenty to say about what it called: “Other Metropolitan Statistical Area Counties”, which it said were: Bibb, Bryan, Catoosa, Chatham, Chattahoochee, Clarke, Columbia, Dade, Dougherty, Effingham, Harris, Houston, Jones, Lee, Madison, McDuffie, Muscogee, Oconee, Peach, Richmond, Twiggs, and Walker counties. Apparently DOT means that these counties are all considered metropolitan, but are not in the Atlanta area. These metro areas include the cities of Albany and Leesburg, Athens, Augusta, Columbus, Macon, and Savannah, and the area toward the north of Georgia that is near Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to the report, these counties also experienced growth between 2000 and 2006, although at 6.53% the growth was less explosive than in the Atlanta metro area and the Atlanta suburban counties.

In 2000, the metropolitan areas outside Atlanta experienced 53,763 car wrecks, at a rate of 336.2 car accidents per million miles driven. In 2006, they had more car accidents — 56,905, an increase of 5.84%. But interestingly, the rate of accidents per one million vehicle miles actually dropped to 333.9, a decrease of 0.71%.

When it came to personal injuries in car accidents, by 2006 the metropolitan areas other than Atlanta actually showed improvement over the 2000 numbers. While there were 23,187 car wrecks outside the Atlanta are in 2000, the number actually dropped to 22,632 by 2006. While there were 145.0 car accidents per million vehicle miles in 2000, in 2006 the number dropped to 132.8. Overall, the number of car accidents decreased by 2.39%, and the rate per million vehicle miles decreased by even more – a whopping 8.44% decline.

When it came to deaths, however, these metro areas outside Atlanta did not do as well. 244 people were killed on their roads, in 2000, at a rate of 1.53 deaths per million vehicle miles. These numbers increased by 2006: 281 people were killed in car accidents, at a rate of 1.65 per 1,000,000 vehicle miles. Overall, the actual number of deaths increased by
15.16, and the rate of deaths per million vehicle miles increased by 8.03%.

The DOT report notes that the statistics that Atlanta experienced are the opposite of what the metropolitan regions outside Atlanta experienced. In Atlanta, the number of crashes increased with the population growth, and the number of deaths declines. DOT concluded that “bumper to bumper traffic leads to slower speeds which reduce the severity of injury. But in the Albany and Leesburg, Athens, Augusta, Columbus, Macon, and Savannah areas, the number of car wrecks decreased, but the death rate increased.

It does make you wonder. Even though these counties had less growth than Atlanta did, and even though pretty much everybody everywhere has less traffic than the Atlanta metro area does, the population in these counties still grew by what would be a pretty strong clip for anywhere else in the country. If the population grew, shouldn’t the traffic have increased? And if traffic increased, shouldn’t the number of wrecks have increased? And shouldn’t the slowdown in traffic have meant that we would expect fewer deaths, not more?

DOT doesn’t tell us why these counties experienced such a different result than Atlanta did. Perhaps this sentence gives a clue: Narrow, two-way roads are “a problem in emerging suburbs that often are not prepared for massive increases in population with their limited funding resources and infrastructure.” DOT report at 9. Perhaps the population increase was not enough to slow traffic down, and at the same time the population growth caused an increased burden on emergency crews and increased the number of vehicles on roads that are difficult to navigate.